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Marolyn Dodge Matthews displays unique rug hooking

by Wendy Jones

Marolyn Dodge Matthews at Macphail HomesteadShe’s an unstoppable 65-year-old rug hooker whose grey hair has been cropped and spiked like a punk star, then dyed a vibrant cardinal red on the crown and raven black at the fringe and nape. She can sometimes be seen plying her trade along Charlottetown’s boardwalks. She refuses to let convention stop her from living life on her own terms.

The fact that she uses a cane doesn’t stop Marolyn Dodge Matthews from doing what she loves either. With the help of her husband (as chauffeur), she travels around the Maritimes, the eastern seaboard and across the country gaining inspiration for her whimsical folk art rugs and craft pieces. She is well-known to many Islanders, having worked at the front counter of Frenchy’s for many years.

Had he been on hand for the opening of Matthews’ exhibition My Way at the Macphail Homestead in Orwell on Sunday, July 20, Sir Andrew would no doubt have been scandalized—if not by the avant-garde nature of a few of Matthews’ pieces then surely by the tone of some of the conversations. His sitting rooms were full of Shady Ladies who noted that strippers had added some excitement to the opening of last year’s exhibition. Titillating as it may sound, strippers attending last year’s opening were more concerned about the condition of the floorboards and the Shady Ladies were merely hooking rugs.

This year, volunteers at My Way could hardly keep up with the demand for bright red sold stickers for Matthews creations. Matthews has an flair for colour and a well-defined style that is all her own. The primitive simplicity of her work is counterbalanced by the sophisticated incorporation of sundry media into her pieces. Matthews is a true Maritime story teller, the sticks and stones, fish net and found objects that she integrates into her work reflect the traditions and values of her community and tell the Amherst, Nova Scotia-born artist’s own tales. Her work will continue to hang at the Sir Andrew Macphail homestead through to August 15.

Readers who are interested in getting together with a fun group of casual hookers are welcome to join Marolyn and the Shady Ladies at the Spring Park United Church in Charlottetown every Wednesday from mid-September onwards. They do not hold meetings or give instruction, but they do have fun, provide support, and share their creative rug hooking ideas.

Matthews and the Shady Ladies will be hooking at the Wood Islands and Area Ferry Festival on August 31. Visual artists and craftsmen are invited to come along and complete a work of art depicting the scenery or ambience of Wood Islands between 9 am and 3 pm. Their works will be exhibited and may be purchased following the event. For further information please call Wendy at 962-4131. Artists wishing to attend the Chowder Supper following the event must register before August 15.

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